BMW is rumoured to be putting the finishing touches on a huge investment plan for its plant in Oxford to ensure production of the legendary Mini stays in the United Kingdom.
Sky News reports the German car maker plans to officially announce its decision later this spring, with one industry insider saying it would be revealed in a few weeks.
If the plans are confirmed, the investment package, which is thought to be worth around £500 million, would provide a significant boost to Britain’s automotive industry.
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One source claimed approximately £75 million of the funding will come from the government’s Automotive Transformation Fund, which has been approved by the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt.
It was unclear how the total investment would be structured, as well as the specific implications for job creation and retention at the company’s Oxford location.
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Responding to an enquiry from Sky News, a BMW spokesperson said the company did not comment on “media speculation”, but added: “With its high degree of flexibility, competitiveness and expertise, the Oxford plant plays an important role in the BMW Group’s production network.
“For the next MINI generation, Oxford will produce the majority of MINI models, the MINI Cooper three-door and five-door models, as well as the MINI Convertible – one of our most important vehicles and a worldwide bestseller.”
If the plans come to fruition, it marks a change in policy as BMW had previously stated that its all-electric Mini models – a hatchback and a small crossover – will be manufactured in China as part of a collaboration with Great Wall, one of the country’s largest automakers.
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The Mini Countryman will be manufactured in Leipzig, Germany, beginning this year.
If the latest plans come to fruition, they will provide a boost to the UK auto industry just weeks after it was revealed that the sector had its worst year in terms of production since the 1950s.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, carmakers produced only 775,000 vehicles in 2022, a nearly 10 percent decrease from the previous year (SMMT).
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Supply chain issues such as component bottlenecks were a major contributor to the decline, but the industry’s gloom has been exacerbated by the recent collapse of Britishvolt, a fledgling electric vehicle battery manufacturer.
Recharge Industries, an Australian company, has purchased Britishvolt’s technology.
Cowley has been producing Minis since the 1950s, and production resumed in the early 2000s under BMW ownership.
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Every year, approximately 200,000 Minis are produced in Oxford, with approximately 80 percent of them destined for export markets.
The plant employs approximately 4,000 people, making it one of the most important in the United Kingdom.
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BMW announced in October it would stop producing the electric Mini in Oxford in 2021 and that the UK plant would instead produce the Mini Cooper three-door and five-door Hatch models.
“Additionally, the Mini Convertible will be returning to Oxford from 2025 – this is one of our most important cars and a global best-seller,” it said at the time.
“Electric MINIs – a hatchback and small SUV – will start their production in China through our partnership with Great Wall and the electric Countryman will be built in Leipzig [in Germany].”
Source: Sky News
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